Category Archives: Resources — Gifted

Just checking in

I have been unwell all week, so if anything interesting happened, I was unable to remember it, much less write about it.

After a week in near-hibernation, however, I did manage to get to about half of our state homeschool convention. I missed the keynote, I missed the “planning for college” session, but I did attend an inspiring session about using the state DNR (department of natural resources) for lessons. I am hoping to attend an educators’ workshop soon for their Project Learning Tree curriculum. I am really excited to find out more, as this is something perfect for Victoria that I think Violet can also benefit from.

I also attended a session about “putting doubts into perspective.” I did have a flash about why I like to attend the local gifted conference as well. Much of the conversation was about kids who aren’t hitting state benchmarks or who show gifts in nonacademic area (i.e., “Someone needs to be the pipefitter,” etc.). I am in agreement with what was said — I am among the first to pipe up that a child not reading at age 6 or 7 does not necessarily require intervention, and I offer the story that I know of a English doctoral candidate who did not learn to read (in her Montessori school) until she was 10 and finally decided she wanted to. And I hope it is obvious that hands-on technical work is incredibly important and valuable.

But those aren’t really my doubts. As we discussed how turning to “experts” can undermine our confidence, I realized that my doubts were more about the risks we’ve been threatened with for gifted kids: higher rates of depression and possibly for suicide, Imposter Syndrome, lack of challenges translating to lack of initiative and self-motivation, burn-out, alienation. As I said, sometimes it seems like if we don’t parent just right, our children will explode!

I wasn’t feeling the love when I raised that issue, and I kind of regretted it. A room where some parents are worried about kids not hitting certain developmental milestones is not the best place to say, “Oh, and I’m so worried because my kid is bright!” (which is not quite what I said, but you know . . . ) Still, the presenter did give some good basic advice: when the “expert” is making you feel worse, look elsewhere.

I like experts, by the way. I’m not anti-expert. I hire experts when I need something done that I can’t do. I read and research. And I came to think of higher education as an opportunity to pick the brains of experts, not just to get information, but to get their help in making myself a better writer and thinker. (Wish I had cottoned onto that earlier!)

Still, none of those things need make you feel bad, even when you learn you need to change your ways.

The challenge, I suppose, is that folks who write about gifted education are usually writing about gifted education in the schools, which means that they are trying to convey a sense of urgency as a way of advocating for gifted students. So as a parent, I’m reading and thinking “oh my gosh, wow, there’s danger everywhere!”

I’d like to find the “gifted experts” who let me know that it’s going to turn out OK, I can do it, and more than that my kids can do it.

And now I have to go watch Elizabeth with my husband!

5 Comments

Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Heart and Soul, Oh Mother, Resources -- Gifted, Uncategorized, Why Homeschool?

This is Our Curriculum?

In an effort to start tracking our homeschooling in case Violet might enroll in outside classes somewhere (by that I mean a language class or something similar), I typed up some formal-looking lists of what we’ll be doing in various areas. I feel compelled to point out that when I say “high school level” I’m not trying to say “wowee!” but rather “not college level,” which is what you might expect given the provider.

I felt a little guilty that Victoria’s curriculum seems thinner until I realized, hey, she’s 5.

Final caveats before the big reveal: as all homeschoolers know, it’s not like all these things are going to be going on all the time, and who knows which will be discarded as dull or unworkable. And it’s not like we follow the prescribed schedule: a book a week, a geography flash quiz each day, etc. These are just the resources we’re starting with, made to look semi-official and hopefully mildly impressive to high schools or colleges who might allow one of the girls to try a part-time class some day. Also: I don’t have the actual books listed that will take up much of our time. It almost seems like they should go without saying. I look at these and think: this is such a weird representation of how we actually spend our time!

Violet’s resources:

English
Magic Lens Grammar
Word Within the Word vocabulary
English 7/8 literature via BYU
Creative writing via co-op (local children’s author, instructor)

World Languages
Chinese: Chinese pod and character practice (Beginning Chinese Reader, DeFrancis and/or Reading and Writing Chinese, McNaughton)
German: German 101 via BYU (high school level)

Math
Pre-algebra, assorted textbooks (particular goals: review and become more confident in pre-algebra topics such as linear equations, graphing equations, negative numbers, order of operations, radicals and exponents)
Problem solving techniques

History
US History via Teaching Company (high school level)
Continued exploration of History of English sources

Geography
Trail Guide to US Geography, GeoMatters

Fine arts
Art class via co-op (local artist, instructor)
Private piano lessons, including music theory
Drama (Upstages Musical Workshop, includes theatrical and vocal training)

Science
via coop
1st semester topics: Genetics and Health (genetic traits, human cells, DNA, immune system); Physical Science and Space (changes in state, gravity, simple and complex machine, space exploration)
2nd semester topics: Ecology and Earth (Minnesota geological history, rocks, growth/decay cycle, decomposition); Life Science (classifying plants and animals, parasitic and symbiotic relationships); Careers in science

Faith Formation
Faith and Life curriculum (4th grade) via local parish

Victoria’s resources:

English
Five in a Row, Vol. 1

Math
Singapore

World Languages
Spanish via co-op

History/Geography
Five in a Row v. 1
Cantering the Country, GeoMatters

Fine Arts
group piano, including music theory, singing, and ear training
art class, via co-op
dance (combined tap-ballet)

Science
via co-op
1st semester topics: how humans and other animals grow, cells, illness and immunity; physics including friction, magnets, gravity; observation and classification
2nd semester topics: biology and environment, animal habitats; classifying living and non-living things, plant and animal adaptations

Faith Formation
Kindergarten Sunday school
Catholic Mosaic books and activiites

6 Comments

Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Ed, Our Domestic Church, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Resources -- Gifted, Schoolday Doings, unit study -- history of english

Am I Bugging You?

“I don’t mean to bug ya”

I blog a lot about something many people have very negative feelings about, or at least a great deal of ambivalence. Giftedness.

Sometimes I think I should back away from this topic. It does turn people off, and it typically gives people the wrong idea. But then, stubborn me, those turn out to be the reasons I persist. Silence is not always golden. Our unplanned foray into the world of extreme precocity has been a big deal, and finding an online community has been a big help.

(I guess I need to point this out: the fact that it is a big deal, and the fact that it is a major focus of our blog, does not mean that it is the major focus of my life or our family life, much of which stays offline.) (And then again, the fact that talking about my daughter or our homeschooling seems to require so many disclaimers and parenthetical explanations may be an illustration of why we’ve decided to reach out to like-minded folks online.)

Violet is doing so much better at home, thank you very much, but as parents we still deal with a lot of questions and concerns that are very nicely addressed in literature–and especially parent blogs and forums–about gifted children. These are not questions about schooling — Violet and I figure most of that out on our own — but about intensity of reaction, difficulty “fitting in” with other kids (homeschoolers still have to face that question if they want to make friends and participate in groups), trouble “turning down” our level of engagement with every great idea or sensation that we encounter, getting out in front of a brain that seems to run loose like a wild horse. It also helps me think through questions about the difference between encouraging her to do her best and pushing her to acheive! acheive! acheive!, or between allowing her to pursue her interests and running her ragged.

That’s what “giftedness” has meant to us, not reading at a particular grade level or doing a certain kind of math. Those are just bonuses that — on a good day — make my homeschooling job a little easier. (Another parenthetical disclaimer — I am aware that not every behavioral or emotional quirk my child exhibits is a direct result of her “giftedness.”)

I suppose by blogging about giftedness so much I may give the impression that I’m one of those parents who is so delighted to share with the world the Extra Super Special Genius that I made, but I’m hoping anyone who has passed by the site has given me the benefit of the doubt. In real life I am the parent with eyes glued to her knitting, mouth clenched shut every time a conversation about school begins. I’m not just Not Going There.

Online, however, I was so lucky to meet up almost immediately with a few moms who knew exactly what I was talking about. If anything I was intimidated by how brilliant their own girls were! So online is where I let it out. Moms are proud of their kids when they learn something new, and I can be too — online. Moms love to tell funny stories about unexpected things their kids say or do, and online, I can get away with it too. Paradoxically, blogging online about gifted issues is where I (often) get to feel normal, part of the playground chatter. Mostly when people disagree, they are polite, or they ignore you completely, so you never know. (Well, you know, but it’s not in your face.)

I think some confusion comes from defining giftedness — another post for another day. (Really, I’ll try.) Of course it means a lot of those things that people love but also love to hate: unusual achievements, incredible creativity, adult-like thinking (but only in select areas!) in a child’s brain and body. But what we’ve learned is that what we’re referring to as “giftedness” is not simply an IQ score or early achievement of particular milestones. It’s how a person’s brain, senses, and emotions engage with her environment, even when she’d like to turn it off.

It amuses me — and I hope that doesn’t sound too condescending — that people sometimes imagine that someone clings to a “gifted” label to make him/herself feel special. I suppose that happens sometimes. It is more often the case, in my experience, that trying to understand “giftedness” is a way out of the sense of isolation and weirdness that highly gifted kids feel as early as their preschool years.

I could go on and on. (Wait, didn’t I just go on and on?) Looking back on my assorted thoughts they seem more negative than positive: “Woe is me, my child has been diagnosed as . . . Gifted!” [dunh duhn Dunh!] That’s just because I’m trying to highlight what isn’t readily obvious.

Both of our children – -one profoundly gifted, one profoundly sweet and stubborn — are wonderful little girls who play Ello and Harry Potter legos together, swing on the swingset together, fight like rabid dogs together. They love music and ice skating and running through sprinklers. Victoria just started the ballet class she has been begging for all summer long, and Violet is, as I type, at her first fencing lesson. (“Swords?!?!?!!!”) I guess that seems like the obvious side of parenting and homeschooling — though goodness, how blessed we must be if we can take those things for granted at times.

[ETA: Aw, phooey. Reviewing this post again, I see that I am trying to change people’s minds, and that is always such a losing battle. You can think I’m totally full of it, partially full of it, or just a little full of it, and that’s all good. I gave up on self-improvment years ago; now I just have to lighten up on the self-justification. But I’m still leaving the post!]

9 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Oh Mother, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Resources -- Gifted, Why Homeschool?

More on Talent Searches

So as I said, we are thinking of enrolling Violet in the Midwest Academic Talent Search, through Northwestern University of Chicago. We don’t live close enough to Chicago to make real use of their on-site programs, at least not until Violet is old enough for their on-campus summer programs for teens, so I’m trying to figure out the benefit of the program (and there are others like it around the country). As Jove asked, “Why would I subject my girl to this?” Here’s the full list of benefits cited on the MATS website.

A Student Guide, sent prior to taking the test, that offers test-taking strategies, test information, and career planning suggestions
The Educational Program Guide, a listing of schools and programs for academically talented students in the Midwest and the United States
A Planning and Resource Guide, with guidelines and suggestions in selecting coursework and extracurricular activities in math, science, social science and the humanities matched to students’ scores
Talent, a CTD newsletter that contains articles and research geared toward gifted students, their parents, and teachers
A Statistical Summary and Interpretation Report, which summarizes the scores of all students who participated in the Midwest Academic Talent Search so students can compare their scores to those of other gifted students and to those of older students who typically take the tests
An Individualized Long-Range Academic Plan based on the student’s scores and MATS percentile that will help students and their families plan their coursework through the end of high school
For qualifying students, an invitation to the CTD Summer Program at Northwestern University, as well as to other summer programs in the Midwest
A Certificate of Recognition for participation in MATS
Mailings throughout high school from summer programs and special schools
An invitation to participate in future talent searches
For highest scorers, an invitation to a prestigious award ceremony held at Northwestern University
For highest scorers, scholarships for academic programs
The College Guide, a magazine which features articles on college admissions and will help students get started on the college planning process

So much of that doesn’t apply to us/isn’t that important to us — although geez, every other kid is getting a certificate for this or that, so can’t my homeschooler get one too? — but I am very curious about the planning tools offered. That’s why I’m trying to find others who’ve done MATS at the first year of eligibility. We don’t really need any career counseling or college planning yet — though at this accelerated pace I do get nervous about suddenly being at a high school level and having no clue what to do. Likewise I want to have some recent testing for anything that requires proof of advanced ability.

“Thinking” is the stage we’re at right now. I don’t think Violet will be too stressed by the testing — she thoroughly enjoyed all the testing she was subjected to around grade acceleration. Poor thing, it was about the only time a school official seemed aware that she knew how to read and understood basic arithmatic. No wonder she loved it. (I exaggerate, her KG teacher was great.) She seemed genuinely pleased to be thinking for a change. Of course the situation is different now, so she might not view a test in the same way.

We actually did a small practice section yesterday, 10 questions on a reading passage. She got one question wrong, and I had to laugh because it was one of those “choose the best sentence” questions, which I find so subjective. Before I gave her the test I thought to myself, “The answer is A, but I bet anything she picks C.” And so she did! It gave us a good chance to talk about testing, testmaker’s expectations, etc.

If we learn anything of use to other parents I’ll let you know.

9 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, Resources -- Education, Resources -- Gifted